How does one introduce such a legendary album? I mean, saying that “2112” is a good Prog Rock record is like saying that Pierre Berton liked marijuana; it’s a complete understatement.
Released in 1976 by Toronto’s Anthem Records, RUSH’s “2112” is the band’s masterpiece, no ifs, and, or buts. Sure, “Moving Pictures” may be more accessible and “Permanent Waves” may have had the first hit single, but if you’re looking for Prog Rock perfection, look no further than the fourth album from the Canadian power trio.
After the critical failure of the band’s first concept piece, “The Fountain Of Lamneth” (found on their third album, “Caress Of Steel”), RUSH could’ve easily dropped the epics in favor of crafting more radio-friendly tunes. However, not only would they create another concept piece, they would make it take up the entire first side of the album (“Lamneth” was delegated to the second side of “Caress Of Steel”). It would be the first thing listeners would hear…and thanks to some brilliant songwriting, the last thing they would ever forget.
With an epic dystopian story paralleling that of Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”, “2112” is a marvelous seven-part adventure. This twenty-minute beast of a song begins with an overture, quickly followed by the triumphant self-praise of the world’s Priests (“The Temples Of Syrinx”). The protagonist then discovers an ancient guitar (“Discovery”) and quietly teaches himself how to play, eventually presenting it to the Priests (“Presentation”), who crush the guitar. Distraught, the hero retreats to his hideout, where he meets an oracle (“Oracle: The Dream”). The oracle shows him the world as it was ruled by the Elder Race, a civilization that encouraged free thinking. Depressed that he will never be able to live in that world, the protagonist takes his own life (“Soliloquy”). After he dies, the world is suddenly invaded in an exciting “Grand Finale”, ending with the ominous repetition of “Attention all planets of the Solar Federation…we have assumed control”. Epic.
Instrumentally speaking, the title track is played to perfection and all three members of the band (singer/bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, for those who think rocks make excellent dwellings) are in top form. Perhaps the most interesting part is the simplest, during “Discovery”, where Lifeson “learns” to play the guitar, cautiously experimenting with open strings, then gradually building up into full, beautiful chords. It’s quite a cool effect.
Now, the title track is the reason to buy this album, but the other tracks are nothing to sneeze at. “A Passage To Bangkok” is a cheerful song about finding the best Asian weed, “The Twilight Zone” is both creepy and catchy and “Something For Nothing” is a great little rocker.
Though Peart is the lyrical visionary of the band, both Lee and Lifeson each contribute a song of their own to “2112”. Lifeson brings some light-heartedness to the album in the form of “Lessons” and Lee penned the dark and dreary ballad “Tears”. Both are excellent additions to an already magnificent album.
Chances are, if you’re a fan of Prog at all, you already have this album. While other progressive bands of the era were relatively “safe” (YES, GENESIS and KANSAS, just to name a few), RUSH was hard, heavy and bombastic. If you want one of the best albums of the 70s, do not hesitate to pick up “2112”. That little fuzzy feeling you get when you approach the cash register with the album in hand is your brain letting you know you’re currently clutching a copy of perfection incarnate.
(Online November 19, 2006)